The Wednesday Weigh-In: Let’s Talk About Birth Control For REAL Edition

There’s been a lot of talk about birth control lately. But much of the conversation has been centered around politics and policies, and as a result, the realities of birth control usage have fallen by the wayside a bit.

Maybe that’s why people like Rush Limbaugh make statements which seem to suggest that their understanding of how contraceptives work is subpar at best.  And maybe that’s why women’s lived realities of birth control, contraceptives and family planning in general have not been at the center of the national conversation as much as we would like them to be.

Globally, 215 million women face an unmet need for contraception and family planning, meaning they report that don’t want to become pregnant but are not using effective contraception.  Are you one of them? This week’s Wednesday Weigh-In is on birth control as YOU experience it:

What’s your birth control of choice, and how much do you worry about being able to afford it? Have you ever fallen into this category of “unmet need”?

Spill in the comments, and let’s refocus this birth control “debate” on the realities of our experience rather than political grandstanding and pearl clutching.


Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • Anne

    My birth control of choice these days is the copper IUD. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s definitely been a bumpy ride, but it is the best thing I’ve ever tried. I can’t do hormones. Also, if Santorum or one of those knuckleheads is ever elected, my IUD is good for 12 years so they’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead uterus if they want to ban contraception!

    • michelle-j

      That last line had me dying in laughter!! So well put.

  • Sarah

    I have been on the pill intermittently (but mostly) since I was 22. I do not worry about the expense at present, because I’m employed and covered by my employer-sponsored medical insurance. Generic Ortho Tri Cyclen from WalMart runs me around $9/month.

    At times in my past, however, when I was in between jobs or awaiting a 90-day window to begin coverage from my employer, I have fallen into the large population of women who need birth control and are not sure where or how to get and afford it. I’ve used Planned Parenthood which sold me birth control pills at a fairly reasonable rate – I want to say around $25/month or so. Even then, the cost did add up and was concerning to me.

    When I initially started on the pill, I was just graduating from college and was able to get it through our on-campus clinic. Looking back, I should have gotten on it sooner but was unsure of how or where to go and how much it would cost, and was intimidated by the whole process.

    At present, what worries me more than the cost are the possible health implications from being on the pill. I am aware that there are benefits as well, but the associated risks such as blood clots do concern me. I find it unfortunate and unfair that the only hormonal contraceptives available are all for women. I’ve read that it is completely doable to create hormonal contraceptives for men, but the market has no demand for such a product because most men would not take it. They would rather let women be the ones to mess with their bodies, their hormones, their health and not take any risk or action themselves.

  • Genevra

    I have pretty severe problems with my memory, and even with pill reminders and such, I forget to take my prescription meds fairly regularly. So, for that reason, the pill isn’t really an option for me. I also have to use low-hormone birth control because of breast problems, so the mini-pill– which you can’t miss a single dose of– would be my only option in the first place.

    So, for that reason, I have to use the Nuvaring, which costs me $76.11 a month even with health insurance and a $15/month coupon. I’m a single mother and my total annual income is less than $16,000, so that $76.11 a month represents a huge bite out of my budget. Right now, I am able to pay it, but there have been times that I’ve had to choose between paying for my daughter’s daycare or paying for my own birth control… Or that I’ve had to pay a power bill weeks late to pay for my Nuvaring. It’s really been a challenge, especially with gas prices constantly increasing.

    I’m really pretty sickened by the fact that I have to pay $76.11 a month to avoid getting pregnant. I’m pro-life on an individual level (pro-choice for everyone else, of course) and abortion is not an option for me in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. I somehow doubt that “The Taxpayers” who don’t want me to afford birth control would be too happy about providing any kind of support for another child if I did have one right now. I’m proud that I can support my one daughter without government assistance, but I’d have to use “welfare” of some kind if I had a baby right now… And that baby would cost a helluvalot more to “The Taxpayers” than my insurance copay.

    • KittehWhiskas

      YES! The Nuvaring is the only form of hormanal bc that doesn’t make me crazy or cause weight gain. When I lost my health insurance, it went from $24/month to $84/month. It was sickening everytime I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription.

      It disgusts me that we even have to talk about birth control access in 2012.

  • Genevra

    Also, is anyone else seeing “Protect the Unborn: Click Here to Fight Roe v. Wade” ads below this post? Disgusting. I do like the fact that some anti-choice asshat is paying money to Feministing for his message to appear where no receptive audience will see it.

    • Vanessa

      Genevra – we will definitely do not want those ads on here, if you can send me a screenshot and link from the ad to my email, it’d be really appreciated!

  • Xenia

    I’ve been on the pill since I was 16. The first prescription I had was too much for me and I needed to switch in order to get my period, but shortly after I switched, I was comfortable with it. I was a Title X patient and now that I’m no longer eligible, I can no longer afford it. I’ve switched back to condoms for the time being but after being on the pill for four years, it’s a hassle. I’d much rather be popping pills even though I’m not having consistent amounts of sex. I’m afraid that one day I’ll mess up and get knocked up because I can’t afford BC. At the 30 bucks a month that they cost without coverage, it adds up. Especially since I’m helping my mom pay bills at home.

  • Alaina

    I’ve been on the pill for 5 years now (wow!). I initially started taking it for medical reasons, but now it is my primary and preferred method of birth control. Even when I was using condoms, I was grateful for my BC prescription because there were a few condom scares. Until recently, I received state aid to pay for my prescription and my medical visits. As a college student, this service was invaluable. I would not have been able to afford my prescription or annual visits/tests without the program. I only worried when I took trips out of state, or needed more than 1 refill at a time because my insurance didn’t cover that. If I wanted an extra pack or needed to refill my prescription early, I paid out of pocket, and suffered financially for the next month.

    Now, I’ve started my career, and so I am no longer eligible for state aid. Even though I have “real” health insurance (for the first time ever), it doesn’t cover much of my BC prescription–maybe $20? I still pay $60/month for my prescription, and I use generic. I’m able to afford it because I budget responsibly and I have a reasonable salary, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I also know that if I made any less, the cost of my BC would be too much and I would have to find another way to get my prescription because being on the pill is beneficial to me, both psychologically and physically.

  • Allison Grant

    My relationship with birth control through the years has had its ups and downs. While in college and working my first job I had coverage from my parents healthcare or my employer, so I really only had to make sure that I was taking the pill on time or that I was using condoms when I was taking antibiotics. Toward the end of my time at my first job my eye doctor noticed that I had a swollen optic nerve. I’d been having trouble with my contacts for awhile and was using prescribed reading glasses over the contacts when working, so in hind sight it was no surprise I was having eye strain. The doctor decided, however, there was something very wrong with me and made me get various vision tests as well as send me to a neurologist who told me I had to go off my birth control so we could make sure that it wasn’t causing my problem with the nerve issue. Then that same neurologist told me I had to get a spinal tap to make sure there wasn’t anything else wrong. To say that I was shuffled about and abused by these doctors would be an understatement. After I went off my birth control and had my failed spinal tap that resulted in days of agony and me having to clean up my own blood once I left the doctor’s office, I moved away from that first job and to a place where I had no insurance, no family and no hope of paying for birth control even if I wanted to go back on it.

    And that’s when I got pregnant.

    And then I went on welfare and got WIC for food suppliment and for formula suppliment once my daughter was born. Luckily the local state health care covered everything for my pregnancy and I was able to have a healthy daughter via c-section. And then I needed to start back on BC because no way did I want another unplanned pregnancy.

    I was able to get pills for the first four years of my daughter’s life at a very cheap price but once I moved on to a new job and actually had healthcare again, I started using the nuvaring and no longer even have a period. My periods, even on the pill, were a horrible experience, so to no longer bleed was like a god send. Each year, however, the Nuvaring has gone up and up in price. Five years ago my medical provider only required me to pay 29.99 for the ring every 28 days. Now I have to pay 39.99 every 28 days.

    I am celibate, I have been for many years now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t need birth control in order to live a more productive life. Before I used the Nuvaring I would often have to take at least a half a day off work due to such severe bleeding and pain from my period. Now I never need to take off because I never have a period.

    My apologies for the rambling, but I am hopeful that my story will help others see just a few of the many problems women face when it comes to navigating birth control, doctors and those who wish to tell us how to take care of our bodies. I will say that I don’t regret having my daughter, but I do blame those doctors for making me think that I had something wrong that lead to me discontinuing birth control use. In the end it was the eye doctor’s decision that I should use contacts and reading glasses that resulted in me having trouble with my vision, not anything else and especially not my birth control.

  • k

    I have been on the pill for several years now, ever since being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I find it unbelievable that one of the only treatments for this disease, and other diseases, is under such attack. Especially since there is no cure for PCOS and if left untreated it could result in miscarriages and even infertility. So to all of those men who want me to stop using my birth control (which I have never actually used as birth control) and start having those babies, you should note that not taking the drug prescribed to me to treat a serious disease will actually make me not able to have those babies…

    • laura


      There are effective treatments for PCOS besides the pill that you may want to know about, especially if you ever do want to become pregnant. Check out this article at The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.

      And for others using hormonal contraception for menstrual problems, you can find information about alternative treatments at

  • Kate

    I had tried hormonal birth control but didn’t tolerate it well. As a practicing Catholic, I decided that I should try NFP. After an unplanned pregnancy and postpartum depression, I had a 2nd unplanned pregnancy (I don’t want to run NFP down because I think it works for some but it can be more difficult to implement than some of its proponents acknowledge). This coincided with my husband getting laid off and I went from his insurance to my Catholic university’s insurance at significant out of pocket cost. I miscarried very early on and we decided at that point, between the job situation, my postpartum depression, and our difficulties with NFP, it was not the responsible choice. So I looked into what my insurance covered and — surprise — it was nothing! Obviously, I knew what the Church taught about birth control, I just didn’t realize that that would carry over to the university.

    Fortunately, my husband quickly found a new job and, after the waiting period, I went back to his insurance and elected to get the copper IUD because it was (1) nearly fail proof, (2) non-hormonal, and (3) regardless of what happened with jobs, etc. I am covered for at least 10 years.

  • Liz

    I had been on the pill since I was 18 but I got the copper IUD about a month ago at 24. It was a much smoother transition that I thought it would be and I am really pleased with it. I am lucky enough to have good health insurance. I only have to pay a $15 copay for up to 10 years of contraceptive protection.

    My older sister lives in NC and told me that her doctor has been suggesting to all her patients who are not interested in having children in the next 5 years (and who are good candidates for it) to get an IUD because they are worried about access. Now that is scary.

    • Anne

      Oh my gosh! I posted the first comment about getting my IUD due to concerns over access mostly in jest…that is scary to hear doctors are recommending this. *Shudder* It seems we are not too far from A handmaid’s tale society…

  • elle24

    Until now I’ve always stopped myself from commenting on birth control posts because I feel that whatever I say will reek of privilege. But you’ve asked for first-hand accounts, so here’s mine, entirely positive.

    I live in the UK, land of free contraception. When I became sexually active at 16 I was fitted with a diaphragm by my GP, no questions asked, all entirely routine. Looking after it was a fiddly bore, though, and I was never entirely sure of its effectiveness. So at 19 I moved to an oral contraceptive, Marvellon, which I have taken almost every day of my life since then (except when I feel I ought to have a quasi-period, every six months or so; for some reason it helps to keep thrush at bay).

    I’m now in my early 40s, so have been taking those little white pills for nearly quarter of a century. Never paid a penny, never had the slightest side effect, never had the slightest worry about unwanted pregnancy. (I get a routine check-up every time I go back for more, at 6-month intervals.)

    My GP’s now muttering about moving me to a different dosage now that I’m coming up for pre-menopausal. It hurts my vanity just a touch to have to admit that I’m now (almost??) middle-aged, but I appreciate the fact that she’s giving me time to get used to the idea instead of just springing it on me.

    This is just the way it is, for me and for millions of other sexually active British women. This is the way it should be for EVERY menstruating woman who wants it, wherever they are in the world. And for the life of me, I don’t understand why it isn’t. Prescribing and advising on contraception is FAR cheaper for health systems than dealing with pregnancies and abortions. Healthy, happy women are socially and/or economically active women. But I don’t need to rant. You know all this. That’s why we’re here together.

    In a nutshell: I owe SO MUCH to free contraception. I take it for granted far too often, but my adult life would have been radically poorer (socially, sexually, physically, intellectually, financially, everything-ly) without it. What else can I say? It should be a fundamental human right for all of us, not just the privileged Euro-few.

    • Andrew Pari

      Far from coming across as privileged, your experience is extremely helpful to hear about and precisely what we need more of in this political climate.

      Though this is not a “what about the men” discussion, I’ll simply offer that I made one of the very few choices available to men years ago, vasectomy. I’ve been very happy with that decision and have never looked back. Still use condoms, of course, for STD protection, but never have to worry about inducing a pregnancy scare in a woman for the rest of my life.
      I wish more men would make that decision and that more choices were available to us. It does NOT make life “easier” for men to not have more control over their own bodies, despite what patriarchy would have us think.
      I hope it’s okay to say that here.

      • elle24

        Andrew, funnily enough, I almost mentioned vasectomy in my post, but decided it was already over-long. Several years ago my partner, GP and I discussed alternatives to hormonal contraception, including vasectomy (“much cheaper for the NHS than tubectomy, far less hassle for him than for you”, she said). In the end though, we chose to stick to the pill because for me, as for many other women–as has come across so loud and clear in the other posts –contraception is about control over menstruation and hormonal balance rather than “just” about not getting pregnant.

        That said, though, it seems to me that one of the major problems with political discussions of contraception is precisely that it’s assumed it *isn’t* about the men. But of course all of us who are heterosexually active, potentially fertile adults ought to be able to take responsibility for our reproductive selves, with judgement or penalty.

        So when I said, above, “It should be a fundamental human right for all of us” I was lazily thinking “us” = women. But really “us” really does = ALL of us. Thank you for nudging me towards clarifying that thought.

      • Adrienne

        Agree with Andrew, thanks for sharing! So many people paint universal healthcare as a bad thing here, but does anyone really complain over there?

        Also, nice to hear of your choice, Andrew. It just makes so much sense! Inducing unwanted pregnancies should worry every man like their partner, but unfortunately not always so.

        I am on the pill, myself. Started for contraception reasons. Had some trouble with one brand making me sick (to my stomach, often, always freaking me out that it was morning sickness), switched to another that works very well. I went off it for a month, thought I’d take a longer break because I thought condoms would be better economically, but that reminded me of how hellish my periods were without. Went back on immediately. I don’t see myself changing types any time soon unless it’s to something else that relieves period symptoms.
        I get mine from Planned Parenthood. I love those people so much. They’ve helped me out with other female health problems. Don’t know how I’d survive without them. I actually look forward to going there because they are so welcoming. It just makes me sick the way some people try to paint them.
        Can’t wait until I get out of college and on my feet, I will definitely be donating some time and money back.

        • elle24

          Adrienne, NO-ONE complains about the existence of the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK. We complain that it’s under-funded, badly managed, being gradually eroded by stealth privatisation. We–the professionals and the patients–do this all the time, because there’s a collective sense that it’s OURS and that we love it, despite its many faults, and we all desperately want to it to be even better than it is. Even ridiculous scare stories like this one in the Daily Mail don’t question the NHS’s right to exist–what you’ll see (if you can bear to plough through the xenophobia) is that the right-wing media generally want proportionally *more* money spent on health-care than on alleged fripperies such as translation services (even if they don’t want the overall NHS spend to rise).

          And I have NEVER seen or heard anyone question the fundamental right to free contraception. There are occasional local shit-storms when horrified parents discover that the evil NHS acknowledges that their little darlings are sexually active already, like this and act to keep them safe from the consequences. Yes, even under-16s get no-questions-asked contraception. Doctors will flag suspected abuse cases to the local social services, but that doesn’t stop them from preventing unwanted pregnancies and promoting safe sexual practices. Here’s a recent national TV advert put out by the NHS to get teenagers to talk about, and therefore use, contraception.

          Reading everyone else’s comments has been amazing and humbling. I know you didn’t write them for me, but they’ve really hit home what a hugely, scarily real future you’re all up against in the US. I’ve often heard about how marvellous Planned Parenthood is–there was a lot of coverage over the PP funding withdrawal scandal in the UK media earlier in the year–but now, thanks to many of you, I see much better what that really means. Over the past 24 hours I’ve been wondering what I can do to help, so I started, just before I wrote this post, by making as large a donation as I can to PP via their website.

  • Gretel

    I’ve been successfully practicing FAM (fertility awareness method) for more than a year now. Many people confuse it with the “rhythm method,” but it’s not the same thing. It’s great because I’m really aware of where I am in my menstrual cycle, and I’ve saved money on birth control (I use condoms when I’m fertile).

    My partner and I did slip up once and had unprotected sex during my fertile stage, and so we bought the generic version of Plan B. It was $70, which is outrageous.

  • Letha Colleen Myers

    A year ago, while still employed in the for profit industry, I went and got a Paragard IUD installed (the copper one.) It was completely covered by my insurance. Could not be happier with it for its longevity and it’s lack of hormones.

    For the span of about 7 years between finishing high school early, moving out of the country, coming back and going to collage I had zero health insurance. I was on the pill for most of that time, which I received free of charge through Planned Parenthood’s program for low income women. I also received all of my annual exams and the doctor I saw there functioned in the role of my primary care physician. Without PP I would have had nothing. (I get teary eyed just thinking about it. No matter how much money I make in my life I always give them some of it.)

    Now I work in the nonprofit industry for significantly less $ and have a much more restrictive insurance company. The health insurance I have now still covers all major forms of contraception but at a higher cost to patients. The initial upfront outlay for an IUD would be very close to being out of my price range now. Looking back I’m grateful that I was able to choose the right contraceptive method for me, regardless of cost, because that’s a freedom that contributes very strongly to my sexual health and to my preferences about family planning. (i. e., no family thank you very much.) I’m deliriously glad I got the IUD put in when I did and like Anne said earlier I look forward to seeing anyone try to remove it from my body over the course of its 7-10 year life span if the current stupidity continues and restricts contraceptive freedom.

  • Julia

    Read all the time but haven’t commented very often, but I felt compelled to join this discussion. I am currently on the pill, which I take for 2 reasons. 1) To slow the spread and control symptoms of painful endometriosis, and 2) to not get pregnant until we’re ready for another, which I find tremendously responsible.

    I have insurance, which makes this option affordable for me, thankfully, but I have been part of that “other” demographic. While in grad school, we had no script benefit, so I did go without. I didn’t know about the endo at the time, but in retrospect, it probably worsened the condition.

  • Caitlin

    I got a copper IUD last fall, and my insurance paid for all of it. Which was great. However, I spent the next several months (and almost $400 in copays) trying to figure out why I was having terrible pelvic pain. It turned out that I had both an embedded IUD and ovarian cysts. So now I’m back on the pill, and back to paying $10/month for birth control that I will probably have to take for the rest of my reproductive life to avoid having searing ovulation pain every month.

    I estimate that in the last calendar year, I’ve spent at least $600 on birth control and birth control-related doctor’s visits. And that’s with one of the most kickass health insurance plans, in a liberal state with easy access to contraception and a Planned Parenthood literally right around the corner. I should not be the exception. Everyone should have access to affordable reproductive healthcare.

  • meg gandy

    my mother was/is a right wing fundamentalist who believes hormones are “unnatural.” as a result, my PCOS was untreated until recently, when i could scrape up the $300 for an appointment and blood test with planned parenthood. i’ll start taking the cheapest pill available after my next period.

    the only BC i’ve ever used before now was condoms. i’m married, we’re poor, and very very careful. i also live in richmond, virginia, so i’m getting more nervous all the time. we’ve only had one scare–which was the first time i ever stepped into a planned parenthood, as, at the time, plan B just wasn’t available anywhere else.

    we cannot afford a child. pregnancy is my biggest fear, and we will likely continue to use condoms even when i start using the pill.

    • Adrienne

      See, that’s something Romney and Santorum don’t get. They can afford to be opposed to birth control, because they can afford all of their damn kids.

      Planned Parenthood is amazing, hope they can help you out!

    • Trillion

      I understand where you are coming from. My best friend is in a similar situation. She is going to school full time and her fiance works two jobs. The often worry about an unexpected pregnancy.

    • Lindsey

      I live in RVA too! Small world. And as if an unplanned pregnancy isn’t hard enough, VA Republicans have been hard at work signing away our reproductive rights. McDonnell just signed a bill forcing women to jump yet another hurdle in order to terminate a pregnancy.

    • laura

      There are effective treatments for PCOS besides the pill that you may want to know about, especially if you ever do want to become pregnant. Check out this article at The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.
      “In place of the …. pill, I suggest asking your doctor for a prescription for cyclic progesterone therapy—see the handout about it. Cyclic Progesterone treatment will give you regular cycles, help to decrease androgen levels, prevent the endometrial cancer for which women with AAE/PCOS are at increased risk, and help with insulin resistance and weight gain.”

  • MN

    I think that a lot of politicians today forget that there are many reasons to take birth control other than for birth control. I use the Nuvaring because after my freshman year of college I was having craps so horrible they were making me faint. My doctor told me that birth control would help and it really has.
    I also know a friend of mine takes the pill to prevent a cyst on her ovary from leaking.
    Certain politicians should think twice before they make blanket statements about whether birth control should be legal or not, because you never know why someone might need it.

  • jeremyb

    Can boys play too?

    I’ve been through some of this, although always removed from some of the consequences. With my first girlfriend I recall kicking in for the cost of the pill. I think if I had told other guys, they would have flipped out, but it seemed to make sense to me. (And amazingly, I never considered it paying for sex). I usually covered the cost of condoms as well, though after we had been dating for many months, I don’t think we were using condoms as much as we were at the beginning. (But thanks PP for coming to campus and showing us how they worked – at least on a banana – I never forgot). I think her parents would have flipped out if they found out she was using birth control, but my parents would have provided it for free had I asked. Your typical double standard world there. I remember she had both wildly irregular periods and occasional debilitating cramps, so the pill helped her out there as well – though I keep hearing now that it has no medicinal benefits. Strange that. There were lots of times when we barely had the money, but I almost always found a way to divert money to contraception, though I admit it makes a world of difference that I didn’t have mouths to feed at that time.

    With another girlfriend it was pretty clear to me the value of having two forms of birth control, at least later on in the relationship. Towards the end, she wasn’t monogomous (and I was trying not to be), so condoms it was. I remember a few conversations amidst repeated breakups – “hey should I be using something here?” – that were met with nods of approval. Again the money problem was largely that even if she had money, if her father had found out she was using it to buy birth control, there would have been consequences.

    Now I’ve been married for a while and things seem to have come back around again due to age. Money isn’t the issue anymore. But, we aren’t using anything right now. Nature is imposing birth control on us. Menopause is on the horizon and I don’t think a third pregnancy is in the cards, though it would be absolutely wonderful to have a second kid. (I’m still plenty young). Sometimes you just take the hand that you are dealt.

    What I don’t understand is how people my age and older (many of whom were admittedly troglodytes to begin with) completely forgot what it was like when they were younger or poorer, or became “holier-than-thou” and just decided that they don’t want to contribute to the “deliquency” of the younger or poorer. We’ve all been there. Frankly I remember that kind of “deliquency” being part of almost all my fondest memories – including my girlfriends, but now primarily with all the wonderful years with my wife. Blocking someone’s insurance from covering birth control is absurd, especally when they are paying for it themselves, and both absurd and cruel when they are forced to rely on others for the insurance.

  • anyadnight

    I started taking the pill when my 2nd period lasted for about a month. Yikes! My mother told me never to tell anyone I was on the pill “because they might get the wrong idea.” She had taken the pill through college to manage her periods and said that doctors wouldn’t believe she just wanted it for her periods. She also told me some boys found out and got the wrong idea about her. I’m not sure if she added that just to make me more cautious or if something actually happened. My grandma had to have a hysterectomy after her 3rd child due to similar problems. My mother and grandma although Christian conservative women were big time advocates and huge sources of support during this time.
    Anyway, I continued for 3 months, then intermittently used it as my periods stopped for awhile and returned when I was 16 and were severe enough to merit going back on the pill.
    At 18 I started having sex and although you’re supposed to be sexually active for 2 years, my GYN OB basically forced me to get a PAP because she didn’t believe me. She basically said I needed it because I was 18. My mother also got me the vaccine for HPV. My BC had always been $10 per month and we had insurance. I was off and on the pill after that, but mainly for the purposes of managing my periods. My partners and I relied on condoms to prevent pregnancy because I had difficulty taking it at the exact same time every day.
    Shortly before taking a volunteer trip to China my prescription expired. I tried to get one from my GYN OB, but she said I was due for a PAP and couldn’t schedule me for 2 months out. I was able to get The Patch from Planned Parenthood so I wouldn’t have to worry about taking pills and traveling. I paid what I could.
    When I returned I still couldn’t get back on the pill so I made due without for awhile. My GYN OB couldn’t get me in for like 6 months. The pill started making me sick so I saw another doctor and got a prescription for Nuvaring– the best BC I have ever had! …But then my mother’s insurance changed and instead of $30 a month, it was $85!
    So last summer I got an IUD. Mirena, specifically. It hurts at times. It was painful to have inserted. My PMS has gotten worse. But, it takes no effort, my periods are regular, it’s pro at preventing pregnancy, and with insurance it cost $25 for 5 years.
    Oh, but my mother doesn’t have good insurance anymore because her employer keeps getting different plans so I haven’t been able to afford the check ups I need. I was going to go into Planned Parenthood to get it checked on.

    Basically, I have no idea where women would be without Planned Parenthood. It’s served me and many of my friends in times of need.

  • Sarah Fischer

    I used the pill for 3 years in college. It cost $60 for a yearly exam and a year supply of pills at the student health center. I didn’t like how it flattened my moods and dried up my natural lubrication.

    My husband and I have used the “pull out” method for ten years now (except for the months when were trying to conceive) . Not for everyone, but its worked great for us.

  • unequalitykills

    About 3 years ago I had the copper IUD inserted. I’ve never had the intention of getting pregnant, and wanted to take that possibility off the table when it came to a one night stand or random hook-up that maybe didn’t uphold to the “safest” standards. It was also kind of a last resort, because I couldn’t stand hormonal birth control and the effect it was having on my body and mind, and Ialso couldn’t find a doctor who would go in surgically and finish the job either at my age (a wee 25). I haven’t had any problems with it, other than the initial insertion procedure, and I like knowing that I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant for another 7 years. Also, if I do change my mind, all I have to do is have it taken out.

    I had it placed at the perfect time in retrospect, I had health insurance then, and the policy I was under completely covered it. It’s a one time payment for 10 years BC method and I think, for myself anyways, it was totally worth it. And if any man thinks that they can dictate my wants and needs for my body and life…screw them.

  • Ariel

    I got a hormonal IUD in mid-December. There is no way I am giving it up if any of these creeps get elected. I’m happy with it. It is my first form of bc, except for a few months in highschool when I had to take YAZ to get my periods going. (Cause some how not having your periods at 17 isn’t unhealthy but it’s weird enough that you HAVE to be on it. [at least in my ex docs opinion.])
    But, yeah, I like my IUD. Just got it’s 3 month in check up so I know it is okay. It hurts every once in a while when I am supposed to get my periods. Like a day where there are some very light cramps. Then 2 days of light bleeding then poof, nothing. Also I LOVE this IUD cause antibiotics don’t do nothing to it. I am still safe to have sex even though I am on Amox-Clav. It’s pretty great. =) Hormones, luckily, don’t do anything to me. They did things to my ma, made her be able to get really mad really easy. I wonder, is that the problem everyone has? Or is it different?

  • blueeyes90

    I take the pill. Been taking it since I was 19. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which caused my period to skip for at least three months at a time. Before I was put on the pill, I was put on metformin to try and treat it. It worked at first, but then my period started skipping (again!) for up to three months at a time. So now I’m taking the pill and frankly, the idea of anyone taking away my pills makes me mad.

  • Riley

    Eventually, I would really like to get Adiana, or an alternate form of permanent sterilization, but right now money is tight. That, and I’m afraid of the negative reaction of those involved. I’m only 21, and absolutely, 100% sure that I never want kids. But no one ever seems to take that seriously. Not once has anyone just accepted that fact. It is always, “You’ll change your mind.” Which is incredibly insulting. Living in the Bible-belt, I’m hesitant to go to a Doctor and ask for Adiana, because I’m likely to get lectured or outright refused. My age may even be used as an issue.

    If I were to get in a long-term relationship with a man as well, I feel like I would need to mention the sterilization, and hope that he would be understanding about it. It’s one thing for a couple to disagree on children, it’s a whole other thing for one part of the relationship to have gone ahead and severed the possibility before-hand. Even if it was the right thing for me to do.

  • Trillion

    When I was 19, a freshmen in college, I started with the pill, but I always took it after different times. I made sure to always use a condom while I was on the pill.

    Last year I found myself in a serious relationship and I changed to the patch. There were times that I did go without birth control because I could not afford it. It wasn’t that the price of them were high, 20 dollars for a month supply through the Planned Parenthood flex plan, it was more so the fact that my job was low paying at the time. I asked my boyfriend at the time if he would help me paying for them after a couple of times having sex and using zero protection. He choose not to help me pay for my birth control, but did buy a large supply of condoms after we talked.

    20 dollars can be a lot when you are working minimum wage and trying out yourself through school.

  • Molly Driftwood

    I’m a 33yo American woman with a college education currently making just over minimum wage with no benefits. I can’t afford insurance. I can’t afford an IUD, even though I would really like one. I don’t plan to have children, at least not any time in the near future, and I would love to have a sure, long-term method of birth control that I can rely on and not have to think about too much. Instead, I’ve got a diaphragm, which is a lot more cost effective given the amount of sex I am currently having (none), but somewhat less reliable if and when I am called upon to use it.

  • Ray

    I haven’t had an issue paying for my birth control yet. I have been on my parents insurance and then benefited from places funded by Title X.
    After trying trying Generic Ortho Tri Cyclen, I went to Nuvaring. I love it, besides for the sometimes nausea it works very well for me. I’m going to have to get off my parent’s insurance soon and I’m not sure if my future job will cover birth control. Nuvaring is expensive without coverage, but I don’t want to go back to the pill, it doesn’t work well for me. If I cant get some kind of subsidized coverage I know I’ll have trouble paying for it. Luckily my boyfriend would probably help me out, but that doesn’t change the fact that a great birth control is made unaffordable to many people who lack coverage.

  • Tara

    I started HBC seven years ago to treat PMDD with the added bonus of baby prevention. I tried the pill and was rubbish at remembering to take it about the same time every day. My gyn suggested the NuvaRing and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Right now my health insurance covers most of the cost, leaving me $40 monthly co-pay that I’m fortunate enough to be able to cover from my flex account. However, during past (and certainly during any future) employment gaps, it’s $80 out of pocket every month; which, when you’re unemployed to begin with, is an astronomical amount. I haven’t been off of HBC since and have no idea if I would still experience PMDD symptoms or not and I really don’t want to find out the hard way.

  • Gretchen

    I used oral contraceptives for about 4 years throughout high school and college; I received them from local health departments, and thanks to sliding fee scales and being poor, I was fortunate and didn’t have to pay a dime for them.

    However, during my senior year of college, I decided to get an IUD, because I was tired of the pill and the havoc it was wreaking on my sex drive. I’m on my parents’ health insurance plan, but the deductible wasn’t low enough to cover it, so I had to pay like $700 out-of-pocket. Thankfully, my parents were amazingly supportive and reimbursed me for a lot of it, because I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent or buy food if I had to pay for it all on my own. Even so, I’m so glad I decided to make the switch; IUDs are awesome.

  • Elizabeth

    I currently use NFP plus condoms, for a combination of reasons. I was on the pill for several years, but I did not enjoy the way that it made me feel. I had the Mirena IUD for 2, but it caused horrific abdominal pain (at one point I was sitting on the floor of the grocery store) despite the fact that I stopped menstruating. Right now, NFP is what I can afford. I wouldn’t mind something very low dose like Nuva-Ring, but I am uninsured and I know that there is no way that I could afford it. My school’s insurance doesn’t cover bc so the situation will not be changing when I get insurance next semester.

  • Jami

    Long-time reader, signed up to chime in.

    I guess my situation is a little bit different. I’ve actually never been able to GET birth control.

    I’ve always had a highly irregular cycle; twice in one month here, no sign of it for six months there, and I didn’t even become sexually active until I was 25.

    That summer, 2007, I began to bleed. Heavier than ever before. Accompanied by huge clots. I’m talking the size of the palm of my hand, big. And the bleeding didn’t stop. For over THREE YEARS. Yup, I had my period every single day from Summer 2007 until last winter.

    I have no health insurance. I’m not even eligible for it at my employer, because I’m part-time, and I’m never chosen for the full-time positions that open up. Secondary or better employment seems out of reach, for now.

    Despite my lack of health coverage, I did attempt to find out what was wrong with me. Numerous times. Several doctors, physical exams, blood tests, etc. I even went to Planned Parenthood only to hit the same brick wall every single time. My blood tests were normal. Hormones, normal. Physical exams didn’t reveal anything. And I was told that a BC prescription was likely to take care of it.
    But before they’d prescribe me anything, all of them demanded an ultrasound, but none were able to do it themselves, so I’d have to go elsewhere to have it done. Every place I went to, $800+, in full, payment up-front. That’s more than a month’s income for me most of the time, so of course, I was turned away at the door. I got tired of the run-around, and how much it was costing me, so I gave up. All that effort for a simple prescription for a little pill, and nothing.

    Thankfully, the bleeding issue, whatever it was, went away last year, and my cycle’s been like clockwork, for the first time ever, ever since. But only because I lost roughly 100lbs in a very short time due to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. So now I have uncontrolled diabetes to contend with instead.

    Anyway, despite all this, I’d still like to get on some type of BC, or better yet, permanent sterilization, because my fiance and I don’t want children, ever. But it’s just too expensive, and any doctor I talk to STILL won’t prescribe me the Pill due to my history and the diabetes. But a kid would financially, and emotionally devastate us, and an abortion would also probably be outside our price range too. So I’m left with just condoms and being a nervous wreck the week before my period every month.

    Ok, that turned out longer than I expected.

    • laura


      It’s hard to get effective health care when you are not able to afford it. Now that your menstrual cycles are normal, what you could do, to augment your condoms and take away some of the anxiety you are feeling each month, is learn to chart your cycles and identify your fertile days. You can access the User’s Guide for the Justisse Method of Fertility Awareness for free here:

      Learning to chart your cycle teaches you a life skill – once you know how, you never forget, just like riding a bicycle. All the best.

  • Lindsey

    I take Ocella oral birth control pills and use Lifestyles Skyn condoms on top of that. I’ve never been pregnant, so it works for me!

  • Nonsequiteuse

    After taking (and tolerating – and loving) oral contraceptives for over 20 years, I had some medical issues that made my doctor recommend going off the pill.

    While I was on the pill, however, it went from being one that was carried by Planned Parenthood (and so available at a deeply discounted rate) & readily available to one that was hard to come by & expensive. By the end, even with employer-sponsored insurance and a co-pay, it was ~$30-35/month.

    Now, my husband and I are both self-employed, so we have a high deductible ($5,000 deductible for each of us) insurance plan. Basically, this means that other than an annual well-woman exam, pretty much any trip to any doctor, and all Rxes, we pay for ourselves.

    My GYN recommended a Mirena IUD, and I’ve been glad to have it, but I had to pay $750 up front to get it. Then, in the first couple of months as I adjusted, I had to pay for an ultrasound as well (a vaginal one, which is why I know EXACTLY how invasive and uncomfortable those are!) to check on the placement.

    I’m so fortunate that I could afford those expenses. I am under no illusion that others would be able to swallow a $750 tab as easily.

  • Meghan

    I took the pill from ages 11-20. I hit puberty at 9 and frequently had 2-week long periods, and finally went on the pill after a 6-week long period in 6th grade. The pill worked fine for me while I was in middle and high school, but when I went to college there was just no good time in my schedule to take it every day, so I looked into getting an IUD once I found out that I didn’t have to have been pregnant to get it. I have been dating the same guy since I got it, so I was exclusively using the IUD. Now, however, after months of an awful, itchy rash around my clitoral hood, I have discovered that I am allergic to semen. My fiance and I have been trying to use condoms, but he is uncircumcised and we haven’t been able to make them work yet.

  • Katie

    I started taking birth control when I was 16 to control my out of control periods and cramping. It was a godsend, and easy to get at that age with my parents health insurance. As a college student, I always went to Planned Parenthood for access to birth control at a reasonable cost but when I started making more money even they became pretty expensive. Then it became very hard for me to get when I started working at a catholic college that really did NOT like to cover it, even for other health reasons.

    When I turned 25, I stopped taking birth control. At that point the hormones seemed to be having more of a negative effect on me than benefit as I was getting migranes. I was also single at the time and as I dated around I became disturbed by the way men looked at birthcontol. Many assumed all women were on it and that it was not their responsibility to worry about and had no sense of the responsibility of taking and paying for birthcontrol. I was also disturbed by the fact that I was constantly arguing with insurance companies to get them to help cover it (even with coverage it generally still cost $30/month) and that almost every policy I was part of covered drugs like Viagra as part of basic coverage. So instead, I used condoms and spermicide for years and now that I have been in an exclusive relationship for two years, I got fitted with a diaphragm. I concidered an IUD but I still have painful periods and I thought it would make them worse. And honestly, I like barrier options because they require you to actually have a conversation about birthcontrol and they put the reproductive decisions in the hands of both partners, rather than just the women. A diagphram is not as effective as the pill but I am also in a place where getting pregnant would not be devastating and my system is consistent enough that we can incorporate some of the lessons from the rythm menthod into our decisions as well.

    It’s nice that I haven’t had to fight an insurance company for seven years now, but honestly, women should not be put in this position to begin with. Birthcontrol saves insurance companies money, this is not a profit driven decision, it is one of morals and frankly, the free market should be taking care of that, but its not so the government has to step in and set some perameters.

  • Maya

    My birth control story isn’t particularly interesting or dramatic, but here it is:

    I first went to get birth control on my own when I was 17. I went to Planned Parenthood. The nurse who talked with me made me feel very at ease, which is amazing considering how much I had absolutely been dreading going there for the first time. I got a prescription for a full year for birth control and managed to get it on my insurance by filling it at Walgreens, but after the exam and birth control it was $65 for everything. I paid using money I had received for my 17th birthday. After the insurance and initial pills and visit, it was only $5 a month for the pills. I was very excited about this, and was at ease with my method and the cost, until I had to get another prescription. PP didn’t take my insurance, so I gathered up the courage and told my mom I wanted to get on the pill. I went to her lady doctor who I had to talk out of giving me a pap, and she only gave me a prescription for 6 months. However, my mom and I got on a new insurance for 2012 after she divorced in 2011 and we no longer applied for the ex’s state county insurance. The new insurance has a deductible, which means I’m stuck paying for $25 a month bc, which sucks because I’m unemployed and a full time college student. I’ve get an allowance from my dad for $100 of personal spending money a month, and since I’m only on the pill for pregnancy prevention, I figure I should just suck it up and pay it, but I still would rather actually be saving more money per month, in case I ever need it. It’s still a shame that irresponsibility is free, whereas doing a positive thing for my reproductive life is not.

  • Olivia

    I’ve been a feministing reader for a few years, but this is my first time commenting because I feel that my affair with birth control has had a (perhaps) larger impact on my life and well-being than most.
    I started having vaginal sex when I was 16 with my boyfriend of a few months. We stayed together for 3 years total, when I was 15-18. I’ve always been, and still am, terrified of pregnancy, so to protect myself (I was already using condoms, but I was paranoid) I took a bus down to my local Planned Parenthood. I was sick with the flu that day, so I stayed home from school. There was a 2 hour window where both of my parents were at work, so I made my trip then. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, where my tyrannical and mentally unstable father was the unchallenged head-of-household. I lost my religion when I was around 14-15, and I had no internal qualms about using birth control, but I knew that if mom and dad found out, well, I didn’t want to think about that possibility. I went down to PP and made an appointment. Washington state PP has a program called “take charge”, and in order to qualify for free birth control (I had no source of income at the time, and using my parents health insurance meant them finding out) you have to prove you’re a citizen of WA state with an address, etc. I stressed to the receptionist that it was beyond important that my parents didn’t find out about my visit, but she assured me that I was on a no-contact list, so I gave her all my information. 
    Three days later, my parents received a voicemail on their home line. It was for “Olivia”. It was my “doctors office”,  reminding me of my “doctors appointment”. 
    My parents intercepted it, and after grilling me, and, I will never forget this, telling me that if I told the truth I wouldn’t get in trouble, I admitted to having sex for the first time. The following day, my father literally threw me across the room and out the front door, and told me to stay out. I was halfway homeless for the next two years. 
    When my high-school counselor found out about what had happened, she immediately got on the line to the local PP. It was some kind of entry error, some misstep on their behalf, and while my counselor was enraged (and I was too, for a short time) the damage was done. I refuse to blame PP, in fact I have come to campaign and demonstrate on their behalf more than once, and I am a proud donor. They are an essential organization that has done far more good than bad, and I realize that my story is an exceptional one. The blame lies with my parents, their church, their pastor, patriarchy and religion as a whole, the list goes on and on. 
    Back to the original concept, I acquired Ortho Evra (the patch) through my own insurance (through my employer) when I was compelled to find a job at age 16, and I’ve had my own insurance ever since. I’ve also only ever used the patch, and I highly recommend it. Ive been on it for 6 Years now (damn!) and I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve been extremely lucky to work for two corporations that offer exceptional benefits and salaries. I pay around $15/ month for it now. I did pay for it dearly in the beginning, but with hard work (and lots of therapy) I’m a generally happy and well-adjusted person these days. I apologize for the long post, but it validates those two tumultuous years for me. 

  • Jax

    I know this is a week late, but I just found this topic, and felt I should share.

    When I was 19 I was on the pill, and had to stop taking it because the price jumped from $20 to about $50 because I was on my parent’s insurance, and being 19, was cut from it. We tried condoms, but neither one of us liked it, so we tried to be more careful, but being 19, wasn’t as careful as we should have been. I got pregnant, and both decided I should have an abortion. (which cost my parents $500)

    Jump ahead 3 years…
    With my current boyfriend, I recieved the insurance back from my parents due to a change in the age of a dependent for their policy. Recieved the pill yet again, started off at about $25 a month, then for some reason, they raised the price to $50 a month, with insurance. I couldn’t afford it after 2 months, so I stopped. Long story short, I got pregant again, but decided to keep it. After my daughter was born, I recieved the iud Mirena, it only took having a baby to be able to recieve it (I asked frequently before I was pregnant if I could get one, but all the docs told me I couldn’t unless I gave birth) If the bc wasn’t so damn expensive in the first place, I would never have been in the position to get pregnant the first time (not blaming it soley, but it had a great influence to my decision making).

  • Christie

    Same sentiments as above. Apologies for the belated posting.

    This is one of those moments when I am infinitely happy to be Canadian. I started taking oral contraceptives (the generic of Marvelon, aka: Apri) a few months before becoming sexually active. A few months prior, I had developed debilitating, “dear Lord I’m going to pass out” ovarian pain during ovulation. I waited for what seemed like forever to get an ultrasound (though I didn’t pay a cent for it, wait times are the curse of socialized health care), and didn’t get more than a “some women just have ovary pain” answer.

    Thankfully, after being on birth control for a month or two, ovarian pain = gone. Birth control has been nothing but good for me. I have shorter periods, and thus am less tired because of less blood loss, and have comparably no cramping. Birth control costs me about $45 for three months, but I get 80% coverage through my work health insurance.

    Come to Canada, friends. Life is, relatively speaking, good here. :)

  • Jessica

    I know I’m late in on this post… but I want to share. :-)

    I’m 23 years old and live in small town Georgia and my bf lives 2.5 hours away in Atlanta, which is where the nearest Planned Parenthood is. We currently use condoms, but I would eventually like to get the copper IUD… I have no intention of having a child in the next 10 years (if ever) and plus the idea of taking hormones personally weirds me out. Also I don’t get heavy or painful periods already, so the side effects of the copper IUD wouldn’t be a big deal. However, with my job it would difficult (though not impossible) to drive up to Atlanta for the initial assessment appointment, then come back for insertion, then back for the 3 month check-up. Plus, I don’t have great health insurance, so if something went wrong with it I couldn’t just go back to PP to get it checked out immediately. If I had better health insurance, I would possibly be able to get it in the town I live in (though who knows, it is a conservative town and I wouldn’t want to experience a doctor trying to talk me out of it) or trust I could pay to see a doctor here if something goes wrong with it. I feel like I’m being punished for wanting to make a smart health decision… Hopefully this summer I move to Atlanta and then will be able to follow-up with this…

  • Brittney

    I wanted to share my story even though I’m a little late on the story.

    I’m 22 and I’ve been on birth control since 17. I, like my mom and sister, have endometriosis. Before birth control, the pain was constant. When I would have my period I had trouble standing because of the pain. I couldn’t eat because food made me nauseous. Nothing worked to relieve the pain. My doctor suggested birth control but I was totally against in at first, thinking there had to be some other way. The only other way was Vicodin. My doctor, mom, and I agreed that long term use of Vicodin would be a bad idea. So I started on birth control. It helped so much. However, we had to fight with my insurance company about it. My family’s insurance is through a Catholic university. They didn’t believe my parents or my doctor when they said that the use of birth control is for a medical condition and not recreational use. We fight with them every year when we have to renew my prescription. Recently, I have experienced hate and ignorance for me using birth control. My ex boyfriend and his roommate just wouldn’t listen to why I was so angry about politicians trying to change women’s rights. Despite telling them exactly what I wrote above, they both came back to thinking that I’m for abortion and that’s the only reason that I am so angry. I have never been for abortion. They think that the only women’s issue out there is abortion and they think birth control is evil. I tried to educate them on my condition but they just didn’t get it. I also had a priest from my university tell me that I need to see a Catholic doctor because my doctor is just throwing pills at me and is hiding the cure. There is no cure for my condition. Unless I get my uterus taken out, I will always have this. I have no idea how bad it is. My sister recently had surgery because she had poly cystic ovaries and they also removed some of the damaged tissue from her condition. There is a possibility that I can’t have kids. That is a horrifying idea to me. These personhood laws will scare doctors away from using invetro fertilization. If that becomes a nation wide thing, then there goes my chance at having a baby.

    I wish male politicians would educate themselves and stop trying to regulate us. If they are going to continue to try and regulate us, then they need to pass a law that says sperm that isn’t ejaculated in a vagina is reckless abandonment and vasectomies are a form of birth control as well so they shouldn’t be allowed.